What has become increasingly apparent is that the office isn’t just a place to work; it’s a constantly evolving space which needs to act as a driver of competitive advantage. So is it time to move in these design directions as predicted by Workplace Insight to keep workers engaged and get the most out of your office space?
1.Organic, biophilic and biomimetic designThis is about the relationship between people and nature. The Human Spaces report into The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace claims that employees who work in environments with natural elements report a 15 percent higher level of well being, are 6 percent more productive and 15 percent more creative overall. This is one reason why a growing number of workplaces not only use more natural imagery in their design but also feature intelligent planting and even plant walls whose beneficial effects are both physiological and psychological.
2. Agile working, coworking and the gig economyThe most important change in the UK workforce since the 2008 recession hasn’t been in the relationship between employer and employee. It has been the growth in the number of self-employed. Between 2008 and 2014 the number of self-employed workers rose by almost 700,000 from 3.8 million to 4.5 million. These people at the heart of the gig economy are very different to employees. Many have portfolio careers, are happy to vary the hours they work depending on what they are up to in their lives and see the whole world as their office. These are the people who are driving the boom in coworking spaces, where they can consume rather than occupy an office for a set period of time.
3. Wellness and wellbeingIn the not so distant past, wellbeing at work was primarily seen as a health and safety issue. Offices and office furniture were designed to minimise the risk of harm to their occupants. All of this seems a bit 20th Century now, and for good reason. Organisations have moved beyond the idea that they should harm staff as little as possible and instead embraced the idea that they should help them to improve their physical and psychological wellbeing. It’s a fundamental shift from a negative to a positive mindset and it has had a profound effect on the way we design offices.
4. Inclusive designThe subject of inclusive design is another topic that has extended its scope. It was once indistinguishable from the issue of accessibility so tended to focus on design features that would make the building compatible with the needs of disabled employees and visitors. This remains an ongoing challenge, especially as employers become more aware of how they can design great workspaces. But it has also evolved to refer to design that is flexible enough to meet the needs of a wide range of occupants and users regardless of their physical abilities.
5. Convergent designWhenever office workers are asked to describe their perfect office, the description they come up with is never of a coldly monotonous corporate open plan space with grey-blue carpets, grey desks and grey chairs. Instead what they describe is far more likely to sound like a cafe or hotel lobby, right down to the fact they’ll ask for armchairs, pleasant surroundings, plenty of meeting space and good, fresh coffee. They know they have to work at desks and chairs for certain tasks, often for long periods, but their focus on what makes a truly great office is usually elsewhere.
6. Beyond ticking the green building boxThere have been signs in recent years that buyers and sellers are looking beyond green design as a simple check on a range of accreditations. A 2015 survey from Acclaro Advisory, a facilities management consultancy, found that more and more organisations now consider a wide range of factors when assessing environmental performance including looking at the supply chain, wellbeing and environmental strategies of suppliers, working with them to set their own targets and developing unique sets of assessment based on their own needs.
7. Zonal designThis focuses on how you create a workplace that meets the needs of groups of people who work at different times and in different ways depending on their job function, age, personality, working relationships, mood, and tasks.
By creating different types of space within an office and empowering people to make decisions about how to use them, organisations are able to manage some of the most commonly made complaints employees have about their working environment.